LAKEWOOD RANCH -- There are no fancy clubhouses to boast of and no fish fry or spaghetti buffets on Friday nights, but that's not stopping the Lakewood Ranch Veterans of Foreign Wars from achieving award-winning service to their community.
Housed in a room of the Red Cross building off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, the VFW Braden River Post 12055, founded in 2006, has been awarded an All State Honor for the fourth time in its brief history and is on its way to receiving its second All American status. Both honors are incumbent upon the post maintaining its membership, participating in all
VFW programs and keeping exemplary records of the magnitude of their service to the community.
Because the Braden River post is small and has virtually no overhead, its donations are spent entirely on the programs it funds and supports, according to Commander Dave Daily, an Iraqi veteran. Even though there are only 25 active members from a roster of 180, over $16,000 has been raised over the last two years for different initiatives from local veterans and their families in need of assistance, to college scholarships and adoption of an overseas military unit in Afghanistan.
Daily says the group takes anyone who has served in combat, from World War II, to the Korean war, Vietnam, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As the older members are lost, the goal is to fill the ranks with younger members.
"What brings the members to our post is we're very active and our focus is on local membership and the local community. Our job is helping veterans, and we want them here," Daily said. "We share so much even though we're generations apart. We have so much in common."
The exposure the post receives as a founding member of the Lakewood Ranch Tribute to Heroes parade, which attracted over 4,000 people over the Memorial Day weekend, as well as their presence at local festivals, car shows and poppy drives have helped raise their visibility in the community and their donations,
"The more that we're out in the marketplace and the more that people see us, the more they understand who we are and what are mission is," said quartermaster Denny King. In fact, King says that for the second year in a row, an anonymous donor in Lakewood Ranch left the post $1,000 cash donation.
The Braden River VFW post has also been actively involved in education through its nationally-mandated scholarship and awards programs, giving college scholarships to deserving graduates of the Junior ROTC at Braden River and Lakewood Ranch high schools and monetary awards for two essay contests on patriotism and democracy to high school and middle school students.
"We're not a fancy post, and we don't have a fancy building, but our community is our mission," noted member Benjie Brinkofski, who represents the VFW on the Lakewood Ranch Memorial Day Parade Committee.
"We couldn't do it without the community. Our area is so giving and so respectful of our veterans, and what I love is the parents here really teach their kids to honor and respect our veterans," Daily noted.
As for future goals, Daily says the post will reach out to help local veterans in need of help getting information and benefits from the Veterans Administration system. He will travel to Jacksonville in June to receive the All State Honor for the post during a special awards ceremony at the state VFW convention.
Information about the VFW Braden River Post 12055 is avaialbe at bradenrivervfw.org.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.